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  • Jellyfish in UK waters

    Marine Conservation Society (MCS)

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    What do barrel, moon and mauve stinger have in common? They’re all types of jellyfish that you could spot in UK waters

    Did you know that you can find jellyfish in the UK’s seas? It's most likely to be in the summer months, as jellyfish ‘blooms’ arrive as the water warms.

    At the Marine Conservation Society, we’re interested in what jellyfish are found in UK waters. We started our jellyfish survey in 2003, with the intention of understanding more about the distribution of jellyfish in our waters and how this affects leatherback turtles.

    Leatherbacks migrate to UK waters to feed on jellyfish through the summer. However, with limited data on where these blooms happened, we wanted to gather data to identify potential feeding hotspots for leatherback turtles.

    But what jellies can you expect to spot at the seaside?

    Here’s 8 to keep an eye out for, and be sure to report them to us at the Marine Conservation Society via our wildlife sightings page.

    How to identify different jellyfish:

    Barrel (Rhizostoma octopus)

    Up to 1m in diameter. Robust with a spherical, solid rubbery bell, which can be white or pale pink, blue or yellow and fringed with purple…

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  • In black and white

    Sea Watch Foundation

    By Lorna Bointon, Sea Watch Foundation Regional Coordinator

    Found in every ocean, orcas, or killer whales, are apex predators at the top of the food chain and, along with other cetacean species, provide a visible indication of ocean health.

    A pod of orca / killer whales off the Caithness coast. Photo credit: Colin Bird/SWF

    The sea may reflect the UK’s changeable weather, ranging from stormy grey to dazzling azure blue, but from a cetacean’s point of view, it’s all black and white, or at least grey. Studies indicate that orcas, along with other cetacean species, do not have the necessary optical cells / cones to see colour in the blue spectrum and rely instead upon rods that are used for discriminating contrast.

    Of course, orcas are easily recognised by their black and white body colours. The monochrome patterning helps to act as camouflage, breaking up appearance, much as warships used ‘dazzle’ camouflage paint on their vessels to affect perception of appearance, speed and direction. They also boast the tallest dorsal fin of all cetacean species with the fins of adult…

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  • On the hunt for a harvest mouse nest

    The Mammal Society

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    Our blog comes from mammal expert Derek Crawley.

    Derek is a valued and active member of the Mammal Society and has also previously sat on the Society’s Council. He is currently Chair of the Staffordshire Mammal Group and a Regional Coordinator for the National Harvest Mouse Survey.

    The harvest mouse is one of our smallest mammals and is the only mammal in the UK that has a prehensile tail. It wraps its tail around the stems of grasses so that it can lean out with its front paws to grab a leaf from an adjacent stem. Holding the leaf and using its teeth it splits the living leaf into two or three strips which it can then use to weave along with other leaves into a tight ball, (see below). This nest made up of living material blends in with the surrounding vegetation making it hard to find, which adds to the difficulty of establishing this mammal’s population. Currently the Mammal Society is running a national survey in order to find out their population and needs your help. To…

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  • Big Garden Birdwatch 2022

    RSPB

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    By Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB

    Over the past two years, we have all had to navigate the difficulties and uncertainties which the Covid-19 pandemic has brought. But over one weekend in January, we can take a moment to put aside our worries and simply enjoy the beauty of nature on our doorstep with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

    House sparrow was the most spotted species in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021. Credit: Ben Andrew RSPB Images.

    Be One in a Million

    Last year, more than a…

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  • Experiencing nature with all your senses

    WWT

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    By Leanne McCormella, Comms and Marketing Executive at Washington Wetland Centre

    Experiencing nature is an immersive affair. It comes at you from all angles, overwhelming your senses, and to give yourself over to it is a truly special thing.

    But what if you don’t have full use of all your senses? Is it any less magical to be amongst wildlife or in the great outdoors? Or does it open up a different way to explore the wild world?

    Photographer Alex, from Sunderland, was born with Bardet Biedl syndrome; a genetic condition which causes a range of physical issues, including blindness.

    The talented…

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  • Swansong or staying strong: the uncertain future of the Bewick’s swan

    WWT

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    Migration is one of the most hazardous tasks a bird can undertake. Yet they have no choice; they need to migrate in order to survive. The UK’s migratory swan population is no different, with Bewick’s and whooper swans whiffling in on their snowy wings to escape the northerly winter. Like ghostly spirits, they appear at dawn to give us heart as the winter freeze takes hold. These beautiful birds are hugely in tune with the rhythms of our Northern climate, so how is increased warmth and weather unpredictability affecting them?

    Flock of Bewick swans by Ben Cherry

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  • Are we seeing a new climate normal?

    National Trust

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    From Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation and Restoration Ecology at the National Trust

    Reflecting on last year’s weather, while it might feel as though it was fairly benign compared to previous years of extreme heat and floods, we found that it was bookended by two catastrophic events in particular.

    Fire on Marsden Moor on 26 April 2021 by Victoria Holland

    Natural disasters strike

    In April, a mile long wildfire tore through Marsden Moor, in…

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  • Digging a little deeper

    RSPB

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    By Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland Mull Officer

    It’s fair to say that after 30 odd years of assisting with post breeding nest clear-outs of white-tailed eagles, we’ve seen a vast array of prey items represented. In fact, it’s pretty clear that as both scavengers and hunters there’s not much they’ll turn their noses (beaks!) up at. The studies over many decades have given us a fascinating insight into what they will eat and what their particular favourites are. The limitations of such studies though are that they’ll tell us what they’ve carried into a nest but generally not how it was obtained in…

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  • What to watch this winter: Snowdrops

    Plantlife Partner organisation of the Watches

    By Archie Thomas, Sarah Shuttleworth & Dr Elizabeth Cooke

    Nothing quite delights like the first sight of snowdrops in January. Their plucky appearance – seemingly against the odds - has long heralded a beginning of the end of deep Winter and engendered feelings of hope and promise for the new year. Whether fluttering on a grassy road verge or carpeting the damp woodland floor, their brilliant white blooms put a spring in the step of even the weariest walker.

    Snowdrops by Trevor Dines, Plantlife

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  • A tale of two white-tails: Skye & Frisa

    RSPB

    Partner organisation of the Watches

    By Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland Mull Officer

    It’s hard to express just how much these two sea eagles mean to me. My connections to them – and to Frisa in particular – go way back and have had an incalculable impact on my RSPB career and personal life.

    White-tailed eagles Frisa (left) and Skye (right) have produced numerous chicks during their many years together on Mull. Credit: Iain Erskine

    Where it all began

     For Spring, Autumn and Winterwatch fans, the adventures of Skye and Frisa are deeply embedded in ‘Watches’…

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